During Pride month, at Biloxi National Cemetery for Veterans, LGBTQ flags replaced some of the U.S. flags, causing a severe backlash among conservatives.
Republicans demand removal
Republicans in Mississippi’s congressional delegation wrote to Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough. U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith and Republican Reps. Mike Ezell, Michael Guest, and Trent Kelly wrote, “Replacing the United States flag with a flag that promotes a particular sexual or gender identity goes against the very mission of our national cemeteries.”
Several people gathered to protest outside the Biloxi VA Medical Center. The center had one Pride flag among the U.S. flags. Richard Boyanton, a Vietnam War Veteran, told WLOX-TV. “The American flag represents everyone.” He added, “We don’t need a flag for each nationality or each different group of people.”
This is not a new practice
McDonough authorized Pride signs to stand next to the U.S. flags “as a symbol of V.A.’s commitment to inclusion and as a tribute to the service and sacrifice of LGBTQ+ Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors,” V.A. Press Secretary Terrence Hayes confirmed. This has been a common practice in recent years, and there were never any incidents.
What has changed?
For the first time, Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital. raised a rainbow Pride flag during a ceremony on June 1 to commemorate Pride Month and recognize the contributions of LGBTQ+ Veterans, staff, and community members. Army Veteran Brandon Chong said, “A lot of people think of Veterans, and they think of straight people. But we are here, and we are queer.”
A special moment for some Veterans
84-year-old Army National Guard Veteran Larry Simpson stated, Having the flag next to the service flags is something special. Because we served, but we mainly served in silence.”
A state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest organization dedicated to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Americans, declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration stopped drag shows after Republicans’ demands.
Secretary Denis McDonough posted on Twitter, “This year, I authorized all VA-owned facilities to fly it for up to 30 days in June,” next to the pictures, and replies were quite divisive. One person wrote, “Because that’s what the VA needs to concentrate on. Making sure the pride flag flies at the hospitals. How about you do something useful to help the vets, then brag.”
Some were grateful
Another said, “As a gay veteran, I thank you. I get Prep from VA and the best care imaginable overall. Dr. Shikha S. Vasudeva at the Salem VAMC and the entire Staunton CBOC are the greatest!”
People agreed on one thing
Most commentators had plenty to say about how the Veterans were treated. One person shared they were a gay man, adding, “How much money funded this initiative to fly an unnecessary symbol of political affiliation instead of actually going towards caring for veterans?”
Most were angered
Another added, “How about instead of this, you work on the claims backlog, removing barriers to care by adding more clinics, or anything else that will ACTUALLY help Service Connected Disabled Veterans!!!!”
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